There is a flurry of activity one afternoon at 650 Queen St. E in downtown Toronto. It is Tuesday and that means it’s time to hand out dozens of boxes and bags of food to anyone in need at WoodGreen Community Services Food Bank.
Every week is busier than the one before, says Kristina Wolfe, Program Assistant of Housing and Homelessness Services at WoodGreen.
She says there are a few reasons more people are coming to the food bank than ever before.
“People know our foodbank is easy to access and it’s really a food desert in this area,” Wolfe says, pointing to the lack of grocery stores in the area and word has spread that the food bank exists.
The largest increase, however, has been since the start of the pandemic, particularly in the last year. The food bank has seen a 200 per cent jump in clients in that time. Many clients are out of work or have seen their benefits reduced, and most are struggling to cope with rising inflation and skyrocketing rents in the city, says Wolfe.
The demographics of people accessing the food bank are changing too.
“In the last month the new people signing up are not seniors,” says Wolfe, “younger people are starting to come, too.”
The food bank prides itself on being easily accessible for all. There is no set catchment area and there is no requirement to prove financial need or show identification. Clients sign up for a pick up time on Tuesdays to ensure safe social distancing. The food bank runs from 1:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. and serves 90 people during that time. It’s busy, says Wolfe, but always “a really good vibe” with a lot of positive energy.
The food bank receives donations from Daily Bread and Second Harvest on Tuesday mornings at 9 a.m. Staff and volunteers immediately get to work sorting, boxing and bagging non-perishables as well as fresh produce, eggs, milk and whatever has been donated on that day. As much as possible, staff work to accommodate dietary restrictions and put together boxes for clients who are vegan, lactose intolerant or need gluten-free meals. Corporate and community volunteers assist at the food bank, along with community partners from the Toronto Community Police Service.
Some clients come every week, others don’t. Meanwhile, some people just show up unannounced for the first time and Wolfe says that’s more than ok. The goal of the food bank is to have as few barriers as possible between food and the people who need it.
FEEDING HOUSEHOLDS, INCLUDING PETS
Often that includes their furry companions as well. There is also a pet food bank on site and available at the same time as the human food bank. Wolfe says that since the start of the year, the demographics of the clients are getting younger and almost all have a pet. The food for animals is provided by independent donors and Wolfe says clients are extremely thankful to get help feeding their companions as well.
It’s a hectic but fulfilling day, says Wolfe, who started as a volunteer at WoodGreen in 2015. She knows that as the food bank’s numbers grow it means the clients’ financial needs are growing too, making the work done at 650 Queen St. E all the more important. “It’s a really good thing we do for this community and I’m so glad we’re able to help where we can.”
To learn more about our food bank, please visit our website.
If you would like to support our food bank, please visit our donation site.